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Nick and Aaron on Gamescom: a conversation

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Last week, two Engadget editors braved the sweltering Gamescom floor in Cologne, Germany, to bring you all the news. Now that the show is finally over, Aaron Souppouris and Nick Summers look back on a week at the world's largest public games conference, breaking down their highs and lows from Gamescom 2015.

Microsoft wins on merit, not attendance

Xbox badge

Aaron Souppouris

I came to Gamescom expecting to be able to write two things about Microsoft: First, that it won just by turning up, and second, that the dream of Xbox as the entertainment center of your home is over. Turns out, neither one of those things is true. Yes, Sony didn't hold a press conference this year, but Microsoft did more than just show up. It brought a ton of new game demos, and also announced a DVR feature for recording live TV, which kills the premise that it's given up on the Xbox as an entertainment hub. It's just making it an option, rather than a requirement.

Nick Summers

DVR functionality is huge for the Xbox One, even if it's only compatible with over-the-air channels at launch. Some people will argue that this is proof Microsoft is still supporting its TV vision for the Xbox One, but I'm not sure that's the case. Many of these features will have been in the pipeline both before and after the console's launch, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the last of those scheduled updates. Under Phil Spencer, the messaging for Xbox has been focused specifically on games. The TV features are a nice bonus, but they're not the company's core concern anymore.

Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised by Microsoft's showing at Gamescom this year. Scalebound is shaping up to be Platinum's most ambitious game to date, and Quantum Break continues to intrigue with its mixture of traditional gameplay and live-action episodes. I was also pleased by the new Rise of the Tomb Raider footage, which seems to be bringing back the series' iconic tombs in a big way.

Aaron Souppouris

I did the math and Kudo Tsunoda said "gamers" more than once per minute during our interview, so you're definitely spot-on about Microsoft's messaging in recent months.

So we both liked Microsoft's lineup a lot. I already know the answer to this, but what was your standout game?

Favorite Games

Nick Summers

Scalebound is probably the one that I'm most looking forward to. PlatinumGames is a tremendously talented studio and this Xbox exclusive seems to be pushing the team in new, interesting directions. The protagonist fights in classic Bayonetta style, but this time he'll be joined by a dragon called Thuban who acts independently. Throughout the game, you'll be able to give him suggestions and customize his appearance with different skin tones and armor. There's also an intriguing system whereby you'll earn more gems for using Thuban with restraint in combat. Did I mention it looks absolutely beautiful?

Aaron Souppouris

I don't think I can disagree there. Customizable dragon buddies and a PlatinumGames combat system sound like heaven. For me, though, the surprise of the show was a little game called Renowned Explorers: International Society. I hadn't heard a lot about it before the show, but I'm now super excited for its release next month. It's similar to XCOM, but adds in the nodal system of FTL: Faster Than Light for navigation and transforms the emotional aspects of The Sims 4 into a combat system. It's a tough one to explain, but I'm super amped. The fact that I've put over 100 hours into both FTL and XCOM should give you an idea as to why.

Nick Summers

One game that surprised me was Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and for all the wrong reasons. For years, I've wanted the franchise to explore either Victorian London or feudal Japan. I should be over the moon now that Ubisoft has chosen the former, but everything about Syndicate feels drab and lifeless. I played a demo this year with protagonist Evie in the Tower of London, but nothing about my assassination felt particularly novel. You can now use a grappling hook to scale buildings and pretend to be arrested with the help of an allied guard. They're new additions, sure, but they don't really change the core gameplay loop. I thought the new setting would win me over, but what I played this year left me feeling pretty disappointed. Was there anything that crushed your spirits?

Challenging games

Aaron Souppouris

So... a slightly embarrassing question: Did you struggle with any of the demos? I heard a lot of people talking about how hard Dark Souls III is, but I actually suffered a lot with some rather basic platforming in the Rise of the Tomb Raider demo, falling off a ledge several times. My gaming life began with the NES, SNES and Saturn, so I didn't really grasp the whole third-person camera thing until it was too late. Gamescom served as a harsh reminder of how bad I am at most video games.

Nick Summers

It's been a while since I've played the original Mirror's Edge, so jumping into the new Catalyst demo was challenging. Within the first five minutes (of a time-restricted 15-minute demo) I had sent Faith falling to her doom a grand total of seven times. The booth was set up like a football stadium too, so I suspect plenty of fellow attendees were watching my pitiful leaps and silently judging me. Parkour is hard folks, both physically and digitally.

Aaron Souppouris

I really can't wait for Catalyst. I'm also legitimately looking forward to Star Wars Battlefront after playing through a level with you.

Shooty bang bang games

AT-AT

Nick Summers

Yeah, I had almost forgotten how much I love Star Wars. When I first launched my X-wing fighter, I felt like a little boy again. The sound of the lasers, the various knobs and dials inside your cockpit -- everything has been perfectly recreated from the films. Fighting for either the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire is a blast too. You're never too far from the action and it's easy to lock onto an enemy and trail them through the night sky, waiting for the perfect moment to fire your proton torpedoes. The force is strong with this one.

Aaron Souppouris

Loving Star Wars was never going to be an issue for me, and I think the authenticity is enough to put my Battlefront phobia to one side. Trying to stay with positivity, what was your best moment of the show?

Best moment

Nick Summers

I'm a little obsessed with the band Chvrches at the moment, so I flipped out when I heard they had been playing Rock Band 4 on the show floor. As you might expect, their performance of Paramore's "Ignorance" was pretty solid, especially with Lauren Mayberry's gorgeous vocals. I was on the fence about whether to buy Rock Band 4 or Guitar Hero Live this year, but this might have just made up my mind. After all, I want to play the game with a few beers and my friends -- Rock Band still looks like the superior social experience.

Aaron Souppouris

So it wasn't when you rode that Metal Gear Solid hog? I still can't decide which photo I like best.

Nick on bikes

Nick Summers

I was going for the "blue steel" look here. Ben Stiller, if you need any extras for Zoolander 2, just give me a call.

Aaron Souppouris

You've got a big Ben Stiller cosplay career ahead of you. Talking of, I saw a couple cosplaying as Ashitaka and San from Princess Mononoke. They looked so adorable, so authentic... I was legitimately upset when I realized my camera was back in the press room.

One of the great things about conferences is, after the dust settles, you don't remember fighting your way through the ridiculously busy show floor; you just remember the awesome, the quirky and the fun.

Lifehacks and sad food

Nick Summers

Yeah, I love seeing all the ingenuity of the attendees, especially at public shows. Loads of people carried cheap, foldable camping stools this year. You know, the simple kind made from two metal squares and a sheet of thin fabric. They're light and fold down flat, so many people were tucking them in between their back and rucksack. When you're queueing for hours on end, a comfortable perch can be an absolute lifesaver. I want one for next year.

Aaron Souppouris

Because you definitely need one more thing to carry all day. I suppose it would make a nice change from sitting on the floor hunched over my laptop and an overpriced bottle of water. One stall was selling 250ml bottles at €0.01 per ml. And that wasn't even the worst. I had 30 minutes to eat on Thursday and the only food within reach was from a sushi place. Despite my rule against eating seafood at trade shows, I paid the equivalent of $20 for a few pieces of dry salmon and a prawn uramaki. It was dreadful, but I'm still alive, so small mercies.

Gallery: Gamescom 2015 | 13 Photos

Nick Summers

Everything I ate at Gamescom was bad. I stomached half-cooked hot dogs, cold chicken pasta and a sandwich that looked like it had been prepared six months ago. I shudder just thinking about them. The larger problem was that the event just didn't have enough places where you could buy food. Attendees want to be queuing to play games, not for overpriced burgers that taste like cardboard. For shame, Gamescom overlords.

Aaron Souppouris

I still enjoyed this year's show, though, even if the food literally left a bad taste in my mouth. It's easy to get caught up in the negativity when you've been working 16-hour days all week. I keep on forgetting games that I've seen when people ask. Just so many games.

Nick Summers

Yeah, it was a great show. Can I go to bed now? Gamescom is a blast, but it's also incredibly tiring. I just want to lie down, grab my 3DS and play -- wait, no. No more video games. No. More. Video games. At least for the next few days, anyway...


We've had a busy week full of stories -- far too many to mention in a single article. You can catch up on them all at our Gamescom 2015 page, from now until the end of time.

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